LAWRENCE — If nothing else, Kansas football enters its first offseason under Les Miles with plenty of tape on what it needs to improve.
The Jayhawk head coach could probably teach a master class off Saturday’s film alone.
“Whatever could’ve gone wrong,” Miles said, “went wrong.”
KU muffed a pair of punts, turned it over twice on downs, threw an interception and executed a 17-yard punt — all across a hideous first half that saw the team fall into a 34-point hole — and eventually fell 61-6 to No. 11 Baylor at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. The Jayhawks committed six turnovers on the evening, throwing four interceptions to go along with the two fumbles, and that number doesn't even include the two changes of possession on failed fourth-down tries.
Of KU's season-worst performance in its season finale, Miles said: "Certainly I didn't see it coming."
“The reality of it is we’ll take those mistakes that we made and we’ll correct those in the spring,” he added. “The spring will be a directly viewed issue after issue from this game, and we’ll do a great job and prepare to play the best and better when we take to the field next."
KU entered the season finale at just 1.1 giveaways per game, tied for the 21st-best mark nationally in that crucial statistic.
“It’s an opportunity to certainly correct and get better, but not the way you wanted to see this team go out," Miles said. "They accomplished a lot and they got a lot better. We just didn’t show it today.”
KU (3-9, 1-8 Big 12) left its fans with the sourest of tastes in their mouths entering the offseason.
On a collision course with No. 7 Oklahoma in next weekend's Big 12 championship game in Arlington, Texas, the Bears (11-1, 8-1) nevertheless didn’t overlook the 14-point underdog Jayhawks, landing multiple knockdown blows in the opening quarter Saturday. BU averaged 14.2 yards per play in the period, scoring on a 6-yard rush by Gerry Bohanon, a 51-yard aerial hookup from Charlie Brewer to Tyquan Thornton and a 13-yard dash by JaMycal Hasty for a quick 21-0 lead.
KU, meanwhile, couldn’t get out of its own way.
Its first drive came to a halt on a turnover on downs at the BU 27-yard line. Its second possession ended with a 17-yard punt into a strong wind from All-Big 12 preseason selection Kyle Thompson. The Jayhawks’ fourth drive ended on another turnover on downs, this time setting the Bears up at the KU 34 and eventually leading to a 23-yard field goal by BU’s John Mayers.
It only got worse for the home squad.
Kwamie Lassiter and Kenny Logan both botched second-quarter punt returns, with the former’s gaffe opening the door for a 14-yard rushing score by Trestan Ebner and a 31-0 deficit for KU. Then, with KU trying to put something — anything — together in the first half’s final minute, a Carter Stanley pass clanked off the hands of wideout Daylon Charlot and found BU’s Henry Black, whose return set the table for Mayers’ 23-yarder and the Bears’ staggering 34-0 advantage at intermission.
KU’s smallest crowd of the season — the program announced an attendance of 22,531 — thinned to a couple thousand fans at halftime, and those who stuck around weren’t rewarded. Hasty scored 19- and 8-yard rushing touchdowns to push the Bears’ lead to 48-0, and Stanley threw interceptions on the Jayhawks’ first two drives of the third quarter, bringing his tally to three on the evening.
After his third interception, Stanley approached Miles and offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon on the sideline and advocated for his backup, fellow senior Manny Miles, to replace him at signal caller.
“I let my team down today,” said Stanley, who finished 13-for-26 for 95 yards and three interceptions in his final collegiate contest. “... I know how special it is for Manny to play under his dad for this last year, and again, I just wanted him to have a moment there and close out his career as well. ...
“I just felt like I hadn’t done too much in the game so far to help us, and I just wanted to again give Manny that moment.”
Manny Miles at long last orchestrated KU’s first scoring drive, his 11-yard strike to junior Andrew Parchment cutting the deficit to 48-6. The game, of course, had been long decided at that juncture, the result of the Jayhawks’ earlier blunders and the talent of a BU program whose own rebuilding effort has reached its zenith.
Manny Miles tossed a fourth-quarter pick to cap the four-interception day for Jayhawk quarterbacks, while BU’s Qualan Jones and Jacob Zeno posted 7- and 1-yard rushing touchdowns, respectively, in the final period to give the game its unsightly final margin.
Pooka Williams served as a lone bright spot for the Jayhawks, carrying the ball 22 times for 116 yards to finish his sophomore campaign with 1,061 rushing yards.
“I think we’ll graduate some seniors that are good players and good people, but I think we’ll populate that group with a new set of really talented players (through recruiting). I think that they will spend that time in the offseason working to better our team,” Les Miles said. “Nobody wants to finish a season like the way we just finished it, and that will be motivation.”
The outcome prevented KU from securing what would've been the program's first four-plus-win season since 2009. While the team’s record is identical to what it reached last year in former head coach David Beaty’s final campaign, fans shouldn’t look at that as a sign of stagnation, at least in the eyes of one outgoing player.
“I can tell you today certainly wasn’t a reflection of the progress this program has made,” Stanley said. “It’s so many things just internally that these coaches have done that has been incredible for this program. I’m super jealous that I’m graduating and I won’t be able to play here anymore, but you know, I truly feel like there’s a great foundation set. These coaches, there’s some great guys in that locker room, but they’re also going to go out and recruit some great players.
“No, there’s a bright future for this program under these coaches.”